Kent State's Amazing Tournament Run Ends Against Hot-Shooting Hoosiers
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - The dream of an unprecedented appearance in the NCAA tournament's Final Four ended for Kent State on Saturday night after a run that caught the nation's attention.
Indiana is back in the Final Four thanks to nearly unbelievable 3-point shooting accuracy.
Making their first eight long-range shots and close to 80 percent overall, the Hoosiers rolled past upstart the Golden Flashes 81-69 in the South Regional to return to the national semifinals for the first time since 1992.
Indiana (24-11) -- at No. 5, the lowest-seeded team left in the tournament -- will play Oklahoma next Saturday in Atlanta. The Sooners won the West Regional by beating Missouri 81-75.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Dane Fife, who led Indiana with 17 points. "We've done what we came down here to do. Now we've got to go get Oklahoma."
Kent State's nation-leading 21-game winning streak ended, as did its attempt to become the first No. 10-seeded team to reach the Final Four.
Instead, Indiana -- stunned by Kent State in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament -- gets a chance to add to its five national championships, the last of which came in 1987.
The Hoosiers knocked off top-seeded Duke on Thursday thanks to bruising inside play. Saturday's victory came courtesy of hard-to-believe outside shooting.
Six players hit 3-pointers for Indiana, with Fife going 5-for-6. Kyle Hornsby added 16 points for the Hoosiers, who tied for the Big Ten regular-season title.
"Give Indiana credit," Kent State coach Stan Heath said. "I haven't seen a shooting display like that in my 13 years of coaching."
Indiana finished 15-for-19 on 3s -- 78.9 percent, the fifth-highest ever in an NCAA tournament game. The 15 made set a school record.
"If we had had 10 people out there, I don't think we could have stopped them from scoring," Kent State's Andrew Mitchell said.
Antonio Gates scored 22 points, and Mitchell added 19 for Kent State (30-6), which was playing in a regional final for the first time. It was trying to become the first school from the Mid-American Conference reach the Final Four.
Indiana led by as many as 20 points, and had to weather one sustained run when point guard Tom Coverdale left with about 9 1/2 minutes to play after re-injuring the left ankle he sprained in the first round of the tourney.
Kent State used a 13-0 run to draw within 59-52, but Fife, one of two Indiana seniors, stemmed the rally by making -- what else? -- a 3-pointer with a little more than 6 minutes to go.
Playing on rival Kentucky's home floor, Indiana seemingly couldn't miss a shot early. The Hoosiers' frenzied red-and-white-clad fans got louder and louder each time the ball dropped through the net.
The Hoosiers made 12 of their first 18 shots, including all eight 3-point attempts by five players, to lead by as many as 20 at the 8-minute mark.
Indiana was up 40-28 at halftime.
After missing their first shot of the second half, the Hoosiers went back to work with consecutive 3-pointers by Hornsby and Jared Jeffries to push the lead to 46-32 at the 17-minute mark.
Fife's fourth 3 of the game gave the Hoosiers a 59-39 lead with 10 1/2 minutes left.
Coverdale, the regional's MVP, had 14 points and seven assists, and Big Ten player of the year Jeffries scored 10.
The victory was easily the most significant of Indiana coach Mike Davis' two-year tenure at a school representing a state where basketball is a religion. Davis was an assistant to Bob Knight for three seasons and took over when Knight was fired.